Gina’s Tormentor

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This post was originally published through Patreon on April 30, 2019

The creature spoke and Gina listened.

She could ignore many things, but not this. Her tormentor was unique, both a part of her and not, and it always knew what to say.

Your life means nothing, her tormentor whispered. Your existence is an accident, your purpose non-existent. Let go, and follow me into the dark.

Every day, her tormentor extended its invitation, and every day, Gina grew one step closer to accepting it.

Gina tossed in her bed, the mattress groaning under her weight, and set the covers aside. She blinked as if lost, then peered up at the clock above her shuttered window.

12:56 p.m.

Is this all your life has become, sleeping through the afternoon and waiting for the sun to set before deciding it’s not worth getting out of bed? Let go, Gina. Let go and be one with me in the dark.

Tears sprang to her eyes, a common occurrence now, and as she lay alone in her dim one-bedroom apartment, her sadness spread, creeping first through her chest, then into her throat, choking her, pulling out of her quaking, trembling body one racking sob after the next.

Life hadn’t always been so dark. Once, she’d been a child. Once, she’d enjoyed the many colors of the world, ignorant of the darkness that dwelled just beyond its borders. Then the storm clouds of adolescence had come rolling in, blotting out the sun, and in the gloom, her tormentor had stirred for the first time: a child of the darkness that would haunt her forever after, cheering for the day that Gina would give up on the light for good.

Gina tried to resist, tried to find a place for herself beyond her tormentor’s corrupting influence. But the creature followed her everywhere she went, sowing seeds of despair and self-loathing until its control over Gina’s mind was absolute.

Now, Gina was on the verge of answering its call, of admitting defeat and allowing it to carry her into the dark. But there was a part of herself that refused to budge, a remnant of the little girl she’d been so long ago.

“No,” Gina heard herself whisper, the first word she remembered uttering in years.

All at once, a change came over her, a crack in those pregnant storm clouds that, for the first time since adolescence, let through a tiny spear of light.

“No,” she said again, and this time her voice was louder, no longer just a whisper but something fiercer. “No, I won’t go with you.”

For a moment the creature said nothing. Gina could feel its shock, its incredulity, and she knew it wouldn’t let her go without a fight.

Come, it said, no longer a question but a command.

It reached into Gina’s heart and plucked the sadness like the strings of an off-tune guitar. Tears poured from Gina’s eyes like rain. But the little girl inside was with her now, and its own influence over her mind was growing, beating back the emotional weeds her tormentor had spent a lifetime nurturing.

“No,” Gina said yet again. “I won’t go with you. Not now, not ever.”

She turned onto her side, forcing muscles atrophied by chronic disuse to move once again, then, at last, pulled herself out of bed.

Her tormentor reeled in protest, but Gina wasn’t going to let it win, not now.

The clouds above her head broke again, letting more light through. Gina continued to cry, but the sound had changed, no longer a reflection of melancholy and despair but of overpowering joy and newfound hope.

You can’t deny me forever, the creature spat.

Gina knew it spoke the truth. She would fight this battle again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. Such was her tormentor’s nature. Like cancer, the darkness inside of her would go into remission, then return the moment she believed herself healed.

But the little girl inside would remain with her, ready to remind Gina of who she’d once been and of who she could be once again. Together, they would fight, and one day, if Gina remained strong, she would beat her tormentor for the last time, and in so doing secure for herself eternal freedom.

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Harold’s Stolen Book

Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 23, 2019

The night was cold and Harold curled into his jacket, mist rising from his lips like dragon’s breath. Where was Michelle? She was supposed to have met him an hour ago, before the sun set and the world grew dark. What if… No, he wouldn’t think about that. She was late, that was all.

A twig snapped, and Harold spun. Just a rabbit or a squirrel, he thought. Nothing to worry about. Then someone touched his shoulder. Harold spun again.

“Jesus, Michelle. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Sorry,” she said, the street lights above setting fire to her face. “I would have said something, but I wasn’t sure if it was you. I didn’t know if you were— Never mind. You have the book?”

Harold reached into his jacket and produced a thin, leather-bound volume.

“Right here.”

The two of them stared at it in silence.

“It’s so…ordinary,” said Michelle.

“Looks can be deceiving.”

“Are you sure it’s the right one?”

Harold rolled his eyes. “No, I just broke into a dark wizard’s apartment on a hunch and bagged the first book I could find. Of course it’s the right one.”

“And you’re sure you weren’t followed?”

“I don’t think so. Not unless he was invisible, and no amount of magic can accomplish that, whatever J.K. Rowling might have to say about it.”

Michelle peeked over her shoulder, then nodded.

“Good. You did well. Can I hold it?”

He peered at her a moment, uncertain. He’d gone through hell to retrieve this book and he wasn’t sure he should let it go so easily. Then again, the two of them were more than partners. They were best friends. They’d grown up on the same street, attended the same schools. She’d even been his first kiss. If there was anyone in the world he trusted, it was her. And so, after a dusty, bone-weary sigh, he handed it over.

Michelle cradled the book in her arms as if it were a newborn child. She held it to her breast, closed her eyes, pulled her head back, and took a long, deep breath.

When she opened her eyes, Harold leaped back. Her pupils had expanded until the whites were black as marbles, shining in a face that was too gaunt, too pale to have ever been human. How could he not have seen her for what she was?

“You— You’re not— Where’s Michelle?”

“In the place where all humans who meddle in the business of others go. In a moment, you’ll join her.”

The creature flashed Harold a wicked grin, then summoned fire and hurled it in his direction.

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